arry Potter was very surprised. “Hogwarts raises giant mushrooms in the Dark Forest?”
“Quite so, Harry Potter, sir,” said Dobby, the liberated house-elf. “It is very dark much of the day, and the soil is damp and rich! But Hagrid is not here, and Dobby fears we will not have mushrooms in the kitchen soon, if Hagrid does not return.”
Harry finished filling the water dish. “Sorry, but Ron and I are here just to feed Fang. Hagrid went on a mission for Dumbledore, and you shan’t see him for a week or so.”
“Dobby is most unhappy for Albus Dumbledore. He will miss his mushrooms.”
Harry and Ron looked blankly at each other.
Ron took a stab at it. “Dobby, why are you telling us all this? We’re not supposed to enter the forest, y‘know. How about Sprout? Doesn‘t she run the plant kingdom around here?”
“Dobby begs pardon, but Hagrid raises the mushrooms and outdoor plants. Since you are here, Dobby assumes Harry Potter and Ron Wheezy are in charge.”
Ron persisted. “That’s Weasley. What exactly should we do?”
“Dobby will be most happy if Ron Wheezy would walk with Dobby and help to bring a few pounds of mushrooms, to feed the magic children!”
Oh, sure, thought Harry. He could just imagine the spider-hating Ron going into the forest. He rolled his eyes, sighed and intervened. “Okay, Dobby. I’ll go, if it‘s not too far.”
* * *
It was no wonder giant mushrooms grew so well there. A half-hour journey had led Dobby and Harry to an unfamiliar section, heavily overgrown with thick vines that dangled between the gargantuan trees for several yards off the ground, seeking the little available light. On this side of the vines, it was almost as dark toward the horizon as it was looking straight up at the forest canopy.
Dobby was slowly cutting a chunk from a very large mushroom, enough to supply the school for days. Harry, bored with this rent-a-guard job, folded his arms and leaned back against the solid wall of vines.
That was a mistake.
The looping tendrils had a good grip on him before he even noticed. Harry couldn’t unfold his arms to reach for his wand, and the vines were starting to lift him off the ground.
“Dobby!” he shouted. “I’m trapped! Cut me loose!”
Dobby looked up -- and scared by what he saw, he moaned, and hid under the mushroom.
“DOBBY! Cut me loose! Hex it! Run for Ron! DO SOMETHING!”
But Dobby wasn’t about to make a move; he saw more than Harry did.
Harry heard it first, a motion above. He glanced upward, and was sorry he had.
It was one of Aragog’s family -- a spider, big as a horse, headed his way from the canopy high above.
“VOVVY!” Harry’s cry was muffled by the ropelike arms that now encircled his face. The plant began pulling him backward, surrounding him with the main vine. The spider was almost there now.
That’s when the plant began the battle.
It whipped its arms at the hairy spider from both sides. The spider fought furiously, angry that its meal was being delayed by this silly plant! Harry watched all this, not more than a few feet from the predator. The plant will be tired soon enough, he thought. Then I’m cooked.
But suddenly, the spider froze, then sagged.
Is it dead? Harry wondered. No; the spider’s eyes still moved... and they were still looking his way.
The plant started to move Harry again. Tendrils loosened. Harry wondered if he was being handed over to the spider, but that was not the case. He was lowered to the ground, and in a moment, his bonds were loose enough to slip out. The spider made no move toward him. What was this charade?
Harry grabbed the mushroom sack and motioned to the house-elf. “Quickly, Dobby, let’s RUN!”
* * *
“Does it sound familiar, Professor?” asked Harry.
“Indeed it does!” said Sprout. “It’s Vinea Captor Immens, called ‘Hostage-Taker.’ Typically such plants would have some sort of fancy flower or scent, to draw birds or insects, so pollen can be passed the short distance from stamen to pistel, and generate new growth. Basic birds-and-bees stuff, y’know. But this vine is just built all wrong for that function. It has nothing attractive whatsoever, and its pollenation parts are on separate arms of the vines, several yards apart. So, survival has taught it a trick: If you don’t have an flower, adopt one! When it can, it seizes something small and attractive, and holds it in the gap until a predator like a large bird comes close -- or in your case, a giant spider -- then lashes out at it with both the pistel and stamen arms. The predator fights back, and in all the wild thrashing, the pollen is passed.
“Then, almost as an apology to nature, the plant stuns the predator for a while, and frees the victim! It’s just another daily life-cycle activity in the forest. You weren’t in any real danger as long as the vines surrounded you. Dobby, being loose on the ground, had more to fear from the spider than you.”
Ron chortled to himself, muttering something about “Harry Potter, the forest flower!”
Harry ignored him, turning instead to the house-elf. “Dobby, sometimes you scare me. As crazy as it sounds, doing nothing was the right thing. How did you know?”
“Dobby feels badly. He hopes Harry Potter understands. Dobby did not know what the vines would do, or the spider. But Dobby could not possibly cut Harry Potter loose!”
“You didn’t want to be mean to the vines, or hurt the ickle spider, huh?” said Ron sarcastically. “On the other hand, you had a knife, and you know some magic. Harry might have appreciated a little help, don‘t you think?”
“No! Harry Potter would have been very angry with Dobby! But Dobby is keeping his promise. When Dobby was freed from his family, Dobby promised to never try and save Harry Potter’s life ever again!”